The Effects of Microbeads on Our Water and Wildlife

The Effects of Microbeads on Water and Wildlife

I first wrote this article (under a different title) for the Verefina blog. Microbeads are causing major problems for our water and marine life, but they don’t have to. Read on to learn more about microbeads and how you can avoid them.

Microbeads are frequently added to products like soap, facial cleansers, and toothpaste. These tiny pieces of plastic (yes, plastic!) are used in products as exfoliants and are sometimes touted for their ability to deeply clean skin. Once they’ve served that purpose, though, microbeads accumulate in the environment and negatively impact wildlife and humans alike.

Where Do Microbeads Go When We’re Done with Them?

Microbeads are designed to go down the drain when these products are rinsed off, but their tiny size makes them nearly impossible to be filtered out at water treatment plants. So they make their way into waterways and are accumulating in our rivers, lakes, and oceans at staggering levels. The office of New York’s state’s attorney general recently reported that about 19 tons of microbeads are washing into that state’s wastewater every year (source). And a research team studying the Great Lakes a few years ago found an average of 17,000 bits of tiny plastic items per square kilometer in Lake Michigan (source).

A Threat to Animals and People

Once in waterways, microbeads pose a threat for marine life, and, eventually, for people. Microbeads can absorb and concentrate environmental pollutants, such as pesticides, making them far more toxic than the water around them. Aquatic animals may mistake microbeads for fish eggs or other food, and therefore consume them. In some cases, the pollutants that are absorbed into microbeads contain endocrine disruptors that may potentially affect the reproductive cycles of the animals that eat them. These toxins can gradually make their way up the food chain and can end up in the seafood that we eat. And in some cases, microbeads affect larger animals directly. The northern right whale, an already endangered species, may be exposed to these toxic plastics through filter-feeding.

Addressing the Problem of Microbeads

Concern over microbeads has been growing for several years, and some states have recently enacted legislation that would restrict the use of microbeads. Illinois, for example, has a law that requires companies to stop manufacturing products with microbeads by the end of 2018 and prohibits them from selling these products by the end of 2019. Maine, New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, and Maryland also have laws that restrict the use of microbeads.

Some environmentalists argue that these laws do not go far enough because they leave open the possibility of using biodegradable- but minimally tested- alternatives. Polylactic acid, for example, can break down faster than other plastics, but only under high heat and other conditions not usually found in aquatic areas. “Everything on earth is biodegradable on a geologic time scale. It’s not biodegradable in a meaningful time frame,” says Stiv Wilson, an environmentalist and director of campaigns at the nonprofit group The Story of Stuff Project (source). Polyhydroxyalkanoate, or PHA, a naturally-occurring plastic produced by bacteria, is also being developed for use in personal care products. PHA can potentially break down in marine environments in about a month. But that’s assuming that marine animals don’t eat it first.

In response to the backlash to microbeads, some companies have stated that they will voluntarily remove the beads from their products. Johnson & Johnson, for example, says that it will discontinue the use of microbeads by 2017. L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble have announced that they are phasing out microbeads in their products, too.

What Can Consumers do NOW?

While these actions are a step in the right direction, the problem requires a greater sense of urgency. With an annual level of 19 tons of microbeads going into New York’s wastewater alone, we need to respond now. Companies may have several years before they are required to remove microbeads from their products, but consumers can start avoiding them today. Choose products that do not have polyethylene or polypropylene in the ingredient list. Or, better yet, opt for products that use all natural exfoliants, such as sugar, ground almonds, or oatmeal.

Microbeads are a threat to the health of both animals and people, but they don’t have to be. By avoiding products that contain microbeads and choosing natural exfoliants instead, consumers can send a message to companies that we don’t want plastic in our personal care products.

Verefina Products with Natural Exfoliants

Want to exfoliate naturally? These products are microbead-free:

Lemon Coconut Creamy Cleanser

Facial Masks

Sugar Scrubs

Sources:

Abrams, Rachel. “Fighting Pollution from Microbeads Used in Soaps and Creams.” The New York Times. 22 May 2015. Web. 15 September 2015.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/23/business/energy-environment/california-takes-step-to-ban-microbeads-used-in-soaps-and-creams.html?_r=1

Beck, Julie. “How Face Wash Pollutes Water.” The Atlantic. 17 June 2014. Web. 14 September 2015.

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/how-face-wash-pollutes-water/372923/

Corley, Cheryl. “Why Those Tiny Microbeads in Soap May Pose Problem for the Great Lakes.” National Public Radio. 21 May 2014. Web. 15 September 2015.

http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313157701/why-those-tiny-microbeads-in-soap-may-pose-problem-for-great-lakes

“Microbeads in the Great Lakes.” Watershed Council. Web. 14 September 2015.

http://www.watershedcouncil.org/microbeads.html

Warner, Kelsey. “What are Microbeads and Why is Canada Banning Them?” The Christian Science Monitor. 7 August 2015. Web. 14 August 2015.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2015/0807/What-are-microbeads-and-why-is-Canada-banning-them

 

New Year, New Site

It’s a new year, and there are some exciting changes at Verefina. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Verefina is a wellness company specializing in natural body care products. These products include a facial care line, soaps and lotions for the whole family, all-natural first aid, immune support products, essential oils, and more.

Verefina is dedicated to making high-quality products at affordable prices. Unlike many other personal care products, Verefina products are free of harmful ingredients such as sulfates, triclosan, artificial colors and fragrances, and petrochemicals. Containing ingredients such as plant oils, essential oils, and aloe vera, Verefina’s products are loaded with naturally-occuring vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support skin health.

As a Verefina consultant- and now an affiliate- I have enjoyed sharing these amazing products with my family, friends, and others. And I am excited about the changes that Verefina has recently made. Their new website is easy to use and allows customers to review products. In addition to products, gift cards are also now available for purchase.

Verefina also now has affiliate and distributor programs. Affiliates can earn a commission on all sales that they refer as well as earn commissions on the sales of affiliates that they recruit. Distributors can sell Verefina products to their current customer base. Details about both of these programs can be found on the new Verefina site.

Verefina turns 3 this month. In honor of their third anniversary, Verefina is giving $10 off for every $30 that you spend.

 

How to Use Rosemary Essential Oil

Rosemary Essential Oil

Rosemary is one of my favorite essential oils, although it took some getting use to; it has a pretty strong scent. The rosemary plant (Rosmarinus officinalis) is native to Mediterranean regions, but it also grows well in many other parts of the world. It is an evergreen shrub that can grow up to 6 1/2 feet tall. The rosemary plant is related to lavender, peppermint, sage, and hyssop. The essential oil is obtained from steam distillation of the leaves and parts of the flowers.

Rosemary essential oil has a range of traditional uses. Today some of these uses for rosemary are being verified by scientific research. Like all other essential oils, rosemary is highly concentrated and should therefore be diluted before being applied to the skin. For directions on how to dilute essential oils, see my post on How to Use Lavender Essential Oil.

Skin and Hair Care

Rosemary is becoming increasingly popular as an ingredient in personal care products. It is a natural astringent, so it helps to tighten the skin and pores. Rosemary is also high in protective antioxidants that help prevent damage caused by exposure to the sun and environmental toxins. And rosemary may help prevent acne by relieving congestion beneath the surface of the skin (source). Rosemary is also very moisturizing, so it’s helpful for dry skin.

Rosemary is believed to stimulate hair growth by stimulating cell division and encouraging hair follicles to produce new hair growth (source). A study of 84 people with alopecia areata (a disease that causes the hair to fall out) looked at the effects of rubbing rosemary, lavender, thyme, and cedarwood essential oils into the scalp every day for 7 months. Those who used the essential oils experienced significant hair growth compared with those who massaged their scalps without the essential oils (source). The study did not look at rosemary essential oil by itself, though, so it is not clear whether or not rosemary oil alone would have the same effect.

If you’d like to incorporate rosemary essential oil into your skin and/or hair care routine, here are a few simple DIY recipes to try:

Rosemary Facial Toner

Ingredients:
4 oz. witch hazel
7 or 8 drops rosemary essential oil

Directions:
Put the witch hazel into a dark glass bottle, and add the rosemary essential oil. Shake gently to blend. Shake before each use, and apply morning and night after cleansing the face. Follow with a moisturizer.

Adapted from Essential Oils for Beginners, Althea Press.

For a similar toner, see DIY Lemon Facial Toner.

Rosemary Mint Shampoo

Ingredients:
8 oz. unscented shampoo
6 drops rosemary essential oil
3 drops peppermint essential oil

Directions:
Add the essential oils to your shampoo, and shake gently but thoroughly to disperse the oils. Shampoo and rinse as usual.

Adapted from Essential Oils for Beginners, Althea Press.

Lavender Rosemary Conditioner

Ingredients:
8 oz. unscented conditioner
6 drops lavender essential oil
6 drops rosemary essential oil

Directions:
Add the essential oils to your conditioner, and shake gently but thoroughly to disperse the oils. Condition and rinse and usual.

Adapted from Essential Oils for Beginners, Althea Press.

Household Uses

Rosemary has been shown in laboratories to have antimicrobial properties; when studied in test tubes, it was able to kill some bacteria and fungi (source). Rosemary appears to have antiviral qualities as well (source). Its antimicrobial properties make rosemary useful as a safe household cleaner. It can be added, for example, to dishwashing soap and surface cleaners (see my post on DIY Natural Cleaners for recipes). Because different essential oils target different microbes, using more than one essential oil in your cleaning products can create more broad-spectrum cleaners. Lavender, lemon, oregano, thyme, and tea tree oils are well-known for their antimicrobial qualities.

Memory and Concentration Enhancement

Rosemary has a history of being used to improve memory and concentration. The authors of a study on rosemary in Thailand observed that rosemary oil

has a pronounced action on the brain and central nervous system (CNS) and is a powerful tool in helping to clear the mind and for increasing mental awareness. It has also been shown to possess excellent brain-stimulating properties as well as an aid for memory improvement (source).

Research on rosemary’s effects on memory are somewhat mixed, though. Another study on both lavender and rosemary found that rosemary significantly enhanced the overall quality of memory, but it also impaired the speed of memory (source).

Mental and Nervous System Stimulation

The authors of the Thailand study looked at the effects of inhaling rosemary essential oil on the nervous system. Specifically, they measured the impact of inhaling rosemary oil on blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and skin temperature. Blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate all increased, while skin temperature decreased, indicating that rosemary has a stimulatory effect on the nervous system. The researchers also measured the brain waves of participants and observed a change in brain wave activity consistent with stimulation of the central nervous system. The participants themselves indicated that they had “fresh mental energy” and felt less drowsy and bored after inhaling the rosemary oil. It is important to note that this study looked only at the effects of inhaling rosemary essential oil and that other modalities, such as massage or topical application, may or may not impact the nervous system in the same way.

Given rosemary’s wide range of uses, it is not surprising that it has become such a popular essential oil.

Caution: Due to its ability to stimulate labor, rosemary essential oil should not be used in any trimester of pregnancy. Some experts even recommend that pregnant women avoid the herb in cooking. Large quantities of rosemary leaves can cause vomiting, spasms, coma, and even fluid in the lungs. Rosemary may also interact with certain drugs, including blood thinners, ACE inhibitors, diuretics, and drugs that treat diabetes. For a more complete list of drugs that may interact with rosemary, visit this page from the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Sources

Falsetto, Sharon. “Rosemary Oil and Hair Growth.” Live Strong. 16 August 2013. Web. 26 April 2014.
http://www.livestrong.com/article/75577-rosemary-oil-hair-growth/

Frost, Marcia. “Rosemary Oil and Acne.” Live Strong. 16 August 2013. Web. 26 April 2014.
http://www.livestrong.com/article/157336-rosemary-oil-and-acne/

Harkin, Carina. “Antiviral Essential Oils in the Prevention of H1N1 Swine Flu.” Carahealth. Web. 29 April 2014.
http://www.carahealth.com/health-conditions-a-to-z/immune-system/swine-flu-h1n1-pandemic/269-antiviral-essential-oils-in-the-prevention-of-h1n1-swine-flu.html

Moss, M., Cook, J., Wesnes, K., and Duckett, P. “Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults.” PubMed. January 2003. Web. 25 April 2014.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12690999

“Rosemary.” University of Maryland Medical Center. 7 May 2013. Web. 24 April 2014.
http://umm.edu/health/medical-reference-guide/complementary-and-alternative-medicine-guide/herb/rosemary

Sayorwan, Winai; Ruangrungsi, Nijsiri; Piriyapunyporn, Teerut; Hongratanaworakit, Tapanee; Kotchabhakdi, Naiphinich; Siripornpanich, Vorasith. “Effects of Inhaled Rosemary Oil on Subjective Feelings and Activities of the Nervous System.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. June 2013. Web. 25 April 2014.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3700080/#!po=3.57143

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DIY Holiday Gift Ideas

DIY Holiday Gift Ideas

As I’ve mentioned before, my family and I enjoy making some of our Christmas gifts. Our son has made Christmas ornaments for the members of our extended family since he was three. It’s been fun to see his ornaments get increasingly sophisticated as he grows older. I love that he likes to make gifts for others, and I hope that it is something he will continue to throughout his life.

Homemade gifts don’t need to be elaborate or fancy; people just appreciate that you took the time to make them. I have a number of DIY products and gift ideas on An Ever Green Life, so I put them all together in one place, for those who are looking for some homemade gift ideas.

Gifts for the Home

Homemade Holiday Potpourri

Homemade Vanilla Extract

DIY Holiday Jars

Kids

Homemade Playdough

Bath and Body

DIY Lemon Facial Toner

DIY Aromatherapy Bath Oil

DIY Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer– great for teachers!

Baked Goods and Other Foods

Gluten Free Molasses Spice Cookies

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

(Gluten Free) Pumpkin Bread

Cranberry Pumpkin Granola– put in a DIY Holiday Jar to make a pretty gift

High Antioxidant Trail Mix– another good filler for the holiday jars

Gluten Free Cranberry Muffins

How to Use Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon essential oil (Citrus limon) is derived from the peel of lemons and has a fresh and uplifting scent. Like most essential oils, lemon oil has many different uses. Lemon essential oil has a number of health benefits and can also be used for various purposes around the home.

Essential oils, including lemon, should be diluted before putting them on the skin. Always test essential oils on a small patch of skin, then wait at least 24 hours to be sure you do not have a reaction before using it on larger areas. For more detailed guidelines on how to dilute essential oils, see this post on How to Use Lavender Essential Oil.

Health Benefits of Lemon Essential Oil

* Sore throats– can be applied diluted on the throat to ease soreness
* Respiratory congestion– add a few drops to a diffuser to help break up congestion (for more on diffusers, see What are Essential Oils?)
* Brightens complexion– helps remove dead skin cells for brighter skin (try using this DIY Lemon Facial Toner)
* Elevates mood– add a few drops to a diffuser to improve mood

Household Uses for Lemon Essential Oil

* Natural cleaner– add 20 to 30 drops to an 8-oz. spray bottle full of water and use it to clean counters, tables, and showers; for extra cleaning power, add lemon essential oil to a half and half mixture of water and white vinegar (Note: do not use vinegar on granite counter tops)
* Cut grease– use it to cut grease or remove grease spots; also good for removing gum
* Clean cutting boards– see DIY Natural Cleaners for instructions
* Add to homemade dishwasher powder– see DIY Natural Cleaners for instructions
* Laundry– add a 1/2 teaspoon to a full teaspoon the wash for an extra fresh scent
* Air freshener– add 20 to 30 drops of lemon essential oil to 8 ounces of water, and spray wherever the air needs freshening

Caution: Lemon essential oil can increase sensitivity to the sun. Avoid direct sunlight for at least 12 hours after using.

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How to Use Grapefruit Essential Oil

Grapefruit Essential Oil

Grapefruit essential oil (Citrus paradisi) is among the more popular essential oils. It comes from the peel of the fruit (like lemon essential oil) and has a sweet, citrusy scent. It can be used in a diffuser (read more about diffusers here), inhaled directly when placed on a cloth, and applied topically with a carrier oil.

Grapefruit Essential Oil for Energizing Your Body

Grapefruit essential oil is very energizing, so it is a good one to diffuse or inhale in the morning or later in the afternoon, if you need a little lift. It blends well with many other essential oils, including lavender, lemon, orange, peppermint, and rosemary. One of my favorite combinations is grapefruit and spearmint. This combination is refreshing and energizing to me.

Stress Management and Mood Enhancement

Grapefruit essential oil has an uplifting effect and is useful if you’re feeling nervous or stressed. It can also help enhance your mood. Grapefruit essential oil is used to treat fatigue and headaches as well. To treat a headache with grapefruit oil, use it in a diffuser, or dilute it with a carrier oil, and rub it gently on your forehead and temples.

Skin Care

This essential oil can help to clear up oily or acne prone skin. It should be added to a carrier oil before applying it to problem areas of the skin. (For more on diluting essential oils, see my post on How to Use Lavender Essential Oil). You can also use it in a toner. To make your own toner with grapefruit essential oil, mix 5 ounces of witch hazel with 3 ounces of aloe vera juice in an 8 ounce opaque jar. Add 10 to 15 drops of grapefruit essential oil, and shake gently. To use, shake again, then put a small amount of the toner on a cotton ball. Swipe over a clean face. You can also make a similar toner with lemon essential oil.

Natural Air Fresheners

Grapefruit can also be used either by itself or in combination with other essential oils in natural air fresheners. To make your own air freshener, fill a spray bottle with distilled water and add 10 to 20 drops of essential oil. Shake gently before each use.

Caution: Grapefruit essential oil may increase sensitivity to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Therefore, it is important to use sunscreen after using this oil.

What do you use grapefruit essential oil for?

Sources:

“Grapefruit Essential Oil.” AromaWeb. Web. 4 October 2013.                                                 http://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/grapefruit-oil.asp

Essential Oils for Beginners. Berkeley: Althea Press, 2013. Print.

Verefina Product Guide

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